In Search Of The King Arctic Norway And Finland April 2023

King Eider 7 BB

A glorious King Eider - well worth the search! Photo by Brian Burnett.

Just returned from an amazing winter wonderland Birdwatching Trips tour in the Arctic. We flew to Helsinki in Finland, and then flew way to the north to Ivalo not so far from the Norway border and took a minibus north. One of our guests, Phil, had asked us to arrange this trip as his “most wanted” bird was an adult drake King Eider in breeding plumage – hence in search of the king.

Male Pine Grosbeak at the Four Winds Cafe in Arctic Finland - what a bird!

Our first stop was at the Four Winds Café, a regular haunt of ours on our summer trips up here. It was hugely different to see the landscape under deep snow, luckily the roads are kept clear. Pine Grosbeaks were the stars of the show here, but we always enjoyed wonderful close views of Siberian Jays, Siberian Tits and Arctic Redpolls. Along with these specialities we watched Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Great Tits, Bullfinches, and delightful red squirrels. A delicious lunch went down very well before we continued north towards Norway.

Julie excitedly shouted, “Hawk Owl!” and sure enough there was another of our most wanted birds, what start to the trip. The bird was on top of a pine tree a fair way off but great views with the scopes. Amazingly we saw two more of these gorgeous birds as we drove north and soaked up the views in the sunshine, very happy guests indeed.

We reached Varanger Fjord in Arctic Norway mid-afternoon and marvelled at the stunning scenery under the blue sky. Stopping by a beautiful church on a headland we watched a pair of huge White-tailed Eagles feeding on the ground and lovely looks at Purple Sandpipers feeding on the beach.

We enjoyed hundreds of beautiful Steller's Eiders along Varanger Fjord.

At Vadso town, where we were staying, we had a quick look in the harbour before checking in to our hotel. It was a thrill to see five Steller’s Eiders bobbing about on the sea off the harbour wall. Another of our most wanted birds and it was still day one!

An afternoon on "bird island" was just one of the many highlights of this tour.

We spent the next four days exploring the mighty Varanger Fjord, staying two nights in Vardo and then back to Vadso for another two nights. Very glad to report we found King Eiders, drakes in stunning plumage amongst them, whew, one ecstatic Phil, and the rest of us were pretty pleased too. Another major highlight was an afternoon spent on “bird island” off Vardo where we stood open mouthed at the vast seabird city before us. Tens of thousands of seabirds make this rock in the Arctic Ocean their home. Atlantic Puffins were on the snow-covered slopes – what an amazing sight! Common and Brunnich’s Guillemots thronged the cliffs ledges along with Razorbills, Shags and so many Black-legged Kittiwakes what a stunning place to be in the glorious weather.

None of us had ever seen Atlantic Puffins in the snow before - just wonderful!

You can never have enough photographs of Puffins!

We explored the coastline of the fjord enjoying lots and lots of gorgeous Steller’s Eiders, some dozen or so King Eiders including a very confiding drake that showed off for Phil in Vardo Harbour. Iceland and Glaucous Gulls, more White-tailed Eagles, masses of Purple Sandpipers, a Red-throated Diver an early bird, both Velvet and Common Scoter and huge numbers of Long-tailed Ducks. Flocks of Snow Buntings joined House Sparrows and Greenfinches at garden feeders!

We were so lucky with the weather mostly cobalt blue skies and sunshine and not much wind – perfect. As it was Easter the roads were almost empty of traffic making it very easy to get around in our minibus which was equipped with superb snow tyres.

This amazing Hawk Owl put on a fantastic show for us as we drove back south towards Ivalo, Finland.

As we headed back to Ivalo in Finland, we had a fourth and our closest encounter with a Hawk Owl. This fantastic bird was close to the road and allowed us the best possible views in the perfect light. We again stopped at the Four Winds Café on our way south to enjoy another Pine Grosbeak fix.

A wonderful winter trip to this remote and beautiful part of the world. Huge thanks to Phil, Julie and Geoff, Ivan and Rose, and Helen and Brain for their company. We look forward to lots more adventures….

We run our Birdwatching Trips throughout the year a mix of set departure tours and custom-made trips perfect for you! To book your custom tour or any of our set departure trips please email us here….

We can then make all the arrangements for your perfect Birdwatching Trips tour.

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